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Arslanbob, Kyrgyz village life
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), May 1st 2013 

Nowadays, more and more travellers are heading to Kyrgyzstan to taste something of Central Asia. Many foreigners do not need a visa anymore, which makes this little country a great base to explore the other countries in the area. Kyrgyzstan is a fabulous country, not only because of its landscape, with rugged mountains, high passes and picturesque valleys, but also because of its ethnic diversity. You will find many different ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan, of which some still live a nomadic life. The small village of Arslanbob, near the south Kyrgyz city of Osh, is a good destination to experience village life; and that in a superb setting.

View on Arslanbob

Arslanbob is a traditional Uzbek village. Ninety-five percent of the people are ethnically Uzbek. You do not only see it, but you also taste it in their food and hear it in their language. Arslanbob has no hotels or guesthouses, which means that you have to stay in a home stay. This form of community based tourism is well developed in the village. They even have a small office with English speaking staff that can help you organising your stay in the village. More than 25 families in the village prepared some kind of room (quality differs) where you can stay. And the money flows directly in the family’s pocket. We even spoke a family who could send their eldest daughter to a good school in Jalal-Abad, thanks to the income from travellers. But don’t expect a five-star experience. The rooms are often basic, and the bathroom even simpler. But that’s all part of the experience. If you like, you can also ask the family to cook for you; a great way to taste the local home made food.

The setting of the village is beautiful. The valley is surrounded by high mountains (up to 4500 metres) which are snow-capped many months of the year. Most people in Arslanbob live a simple life. There is electricity, but don’t expect running water or modern sanitary facilities. The toilet is often a shack in the garden with a hole in it. That should do the ‘job’. The streets are not paved, so after a shower you have to navigate well to avoid the puddles. Cars are available in the village, but the donkey is still an important means of transport; not only for goods, but also for the local children and old picturesque men. Young men prefer a horse. Despite the fact that many travellers know to find Arslanbob nowadays, it is still a very friendly village. It is a great place to experience traditional Kyrgyz village life.

It is great to stay at a local family's place for a few days
The village is also a good base for hikes in the surrounding area. You can make nice day hikes to some waterfalls or the walnut forest, but you also organise a multiple-day trekking. The representative of the community based tourism NGO in the village can help you organise donkeys, horses, tents and guides. In this way all the money you spent, goes directly to the local people. Arslanbob is not the only destination in Kyrgyzstan where community based tourism really took off. To the contrary, many destinations in the country are organised this way. That makes the local people the backbone of Kyrgyz’s tourism development. And that is a good development, not only for the local people, but also for the travellers, who get a much more intense Kyrgyz experience.
Spring arrives
The village butcher
Great day hikes are possible
Arslanbob's famous Walnut forests
Dark clouds gather above Arslanbob

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